The Heart Foundation is one of the biggest non-government funders of heart-related research in Australia. This year they have invested $17.2 million dollars in research that focuses on prevention, causes and treatment of cardiovascular disorders. 

Dr Rona Macniven, member of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute and Research Fellow from UNSW Medicine, was one of five recipients of the Heart Foundation’s Innovative Award and received a Postdoctoral Fellowship for her research into physical activity and how it can achieve health and wellbeing benefits over the life-course of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Partnering with Indigenous investigators and stakeholders, Dr Macniven’s research will identify factors that can influence Indigenous children and adolescents to participate in physical activity.

John Evans, Professor of Indigenous Health Education, worked with Dr Macniven and believes her research is one of the most important research areas in the future. “The ability to identify the early risk factors faced by Indigenous children and youth will help achieve optimum physical activity. The outcomes of the research will allow planning and interventions to be more targeted to the needs of Indigenous young people. In doing so it will lead to improved cardiovascular health for the population.”

Dr Macniven’s work also aims to understand how we can better prevent cardiovascular disease and improve the overall wellbeing of Indigenous adults by understanding the impact of physical activity in targeted interventions. 

“Physical activity has many benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stress and the risk of developing dementia. Through this work, we can better understand how physical activity improves the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” 

Dr. Macniven’s research addresses important gaps in cardiovascular health for children and adults. The Heart Foundation funding will support further research on intervention participation, addressing identified gaps. This will provide rich data on heart health across the life course. 

Institute director, Prof Anstey is delighted to see an AFI member receive this significant award that will not only benefit the Indigenous people but also provide a foundation to inform future-habit based interventions and influence policy makers: “We are very excited about Rona’s research and the potential impact of early habit-based interventions which will translate into healthy habits in adulthood. Activity-centred health habits are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stress and the risk of developing dementia.”